Great Expectations – Advent 1

Lamentations 3:22-23

22 The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;[a]
his mercies never come to an end;
23 they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.

Yesterday some children and adults gathered to make Advent wreaths.  As we decorated the wreaths with baubles and ribbons and candles, we talked about how we mark time with the wreath, each week lighting more candles as we wait for the birth of the Light of the World, Jesus.

It’s a simple, steady tradition, but it helps us stay mindful that this is a time set apart.  Like many of the customs we hold dear in the church, there’s no fancy laser lights involved or big screen or promise of excitement whatsoever, and I imagine this is why many grow restless with the church and our various traditions.  And yet, I can’t count the number of times that a family whom I rarely see at church comes to me for a burial or a wedding, and then they want those same and steady traditions, the well-known scriptures, to taste of and find comfort in the same-ness of it all again.

I guess we all need to know that there is something that never changes.  Some of us regularly take comfort in the steadfast love of God and the church rituals we hold dear.  We would feel lost without Sunday morning worship, the deep blue banners on the church wall, the presence of font and altar rail and pulpit as the touchstone for our weeks.  Others find less value in structure of church and liturgy yet still feel God’s presence near in other places no less holy – home, nature, a good cup of coffee and conversation with a friend.

Perhaps the greatest blessing is when we can learn to spot God’s fingerprints everywhere and learn how to thank God in everything. Whether we sense God’s steadfast love while gathered with others for worship or while sitting on a quiet porch alone in the moonlight, great is God’s faithfulness to us.  Always. Thanks be to God.

Prayer:  Dear Lord, we pray that even as the days grow colder and darker, your love will always be the fire and light that warms us.  In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Reflection:  Where do you feel God’s presence nearest to you?  Why?

Even If

Reflections on Shuffle-Play (the daily exercise to write a reflection based on a song from that morning’s run)

There are two pivotal words in the Bible story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.

The words are “even if.”

If you grew up in the church you likely have known this Bible story most of your life. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego have had their story told over and over – there’s even a Veggie Tales cartoon version of what they went through.

These three Jewish young men refuse to bow down to a huge gold statue that the king has put in place to show off his power. If you read the full story from Daniel, it is almost comical how he demands all these officials come to the dedication of this statue and he commands that whenever people hear the sound of all these musical instruments: the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon (which was a triangular-shaped stringed instrument), harp and drum – they were to fall down on their knees and worship the big ol’ golden statue.

So all the instruments play and the people are falling to their knees to worship the statue when they hear them, but the king finds out that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego do not.

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were not always known by these names. If you looked a little bit earlier in the book of Daniel, you would find that their names first were Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah.

These young men had been brought to work in the king’s court and taught the language and literature of the Chaldeans. These three young men were being forced to give up their own heritage and even religious beliefs.  Their original Jewish names had meanings: Hananiah meant “Who is like God” and Mishael meant, “God is gracious”, and Azariah meant, “God keeps him.” 

But now when they were brought into service in the king’s court, their new names had references to Babylonian gods – such as Nego — Abednego means “servant of Nego.” Now, not only are these young men expected to change their Jewish names but now there is another attempt to compel these immigrants to change their religion and heritage as they are expected to bow down and worship the golden statue of the Emperor, and thus to submit to his authority instead of the God of Israel.

They won’t do it.

And the king is so angry. That’s how leaders who are full of themselves (hmmm…sounds familiar) get when people aren’t doing what they want – they throw tantrums. He says, “if you don’t worship you’ll immediately be thrown into a furnace of blazing fire, and who is the god who will deliver you out of my hands?”

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego say simply, “We don’t need to defend ourselves to you, O king. Our God is able to deliver us out of the fire – but even if he doesn’t, we will never serve your golden statue you have set up.”

Even if.

Our God is able to rescue us but even if he doesn’t, we will serve no other god.

Even if.

I was listening to a story told by the lead singer of the Christian band, Mercy Me, Bart Millard. He was talking about how one of his children has a chronic illness and was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at age two. His family has learned how to handle this challenge and that child is now 13 so Bart estimates that his son has had over 37,000  shots in his life – because pretty much any time he eats, he needs a shot, too. And it will likely always be this way.

He was telling about one particular day when the reality of his son’s chronic illness was just getting him down, and he felt weighed down by his worries for his son. He and his son and wife had just left the doctor’s office and they ran into a woman from church. She asked what they were up to and he told her they had just been to the doctor to get the 6-month check-up on their boy’s diabetes and the woman said, “I’m going to pray for healing for him – and I’ll have my church do that, too.”

He said his gut reaction wasn’t gratitude, but anger. He thought to himself, “Like that never occurred to me – to pray for healing for my son. I pray every day for that. I know God can heal him, but God hasn’t.  And that is okay.” He talked about how his family and his son have learned how to thrive in spite of the illness and they believe that somehow, some way God will work through that illness to bless the lives of others through their son.  But then he shook his head and admitted it doesn’t feel okay every day.

He talked about how he wants every day to be like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego and be able to say “I know God is able to heal – but even if God doesn’t, I will serve no other god.” Sometimes he is able to do that with his whole heart as he sings praise music in front of churches and stadiums, but sometimes he isn’t able to do that – and then he leans on Jesus and just has to trust that Jesus’ strength will get him through.

It was a beautiful witness as he talked about a song he wrote called “Even If”.

I pray that God gives us that “even if” kind of faith that helps us remember that God isn’t like a genie to grant our wishes. Rather, God is with us in the fire and we can trust that. Even if and when the worst happens. Even if healing doesn’t come. Even if we mess up bad. Even if, and no matter what – our hope is in Christ alone.

I felt that when my mother was dying in a hospital in Waco, Texas. I knew I was losing her and my heart was breaking – but when the nurses needed to change her bedding or get her cleaned up, I would go for a walk on the path around the outside of the hospital. I would walk and cry and walk some more. I didn’t have any words to pray, I have no idea how I wrote any sermons during that time, but out of nowhere in the midst of the despair, old hymn lyrics would come to mind.

“When peace like a river attendeth my way

When sorrows like sea billows roll

Whatever my lot thou hast taught me to say

It is well, it is well with my soul.”

It was mysterious and comforting and haunting. God kept singing to me in the midst of the fire of that loss, never letting the reassuring songs leave my mind even as I suffered, even as I knew I had to let go.

Even if. Even if and when the worst happens, God is with you in the fire.

Even If

By Mercy Me

They say sometimes you win some
Sometimes you lose some
And right now, right now I’m losing bad
I’ve stood on this stage night after night
Reminding the broken it’ll be alright
But right now, oh right now I just can’t

It’s easy to sing
When there’s nothing to bring me down
But what will I say
When I’m held to the flame
Like I am right now

I know You’re able and I know You can
Save through the fire with Your mighty hand
But even if You don’t
My hope is You alone

They say it only takes a little faith
To move a mountain
Well good thing
A little faith is all I have, right now
But God, when You choose
To leave mountains unmovable
Oh give me the strength to be able to sing
It is well with my soul

I know You’re able and I know You can
Save through the fire with Your mighty hand
But even if You don’t
My hope is You alone
I know the sorrow, and I know the hurt
Would all go away if You’d just say the word
But even if You don’t
My hope is You alone

You’ve been faithful, You’ve been good
All of my days
Jesus, I will cling to You
Come what may
‘Cause I know You’re able
I know You can

I know You’re able and I know You can
Save through the fire with Your mighty hand
But even if You don’t
My hope is You alone
I know the sorrow, I know the hurt
Would all go away if You’d just say the word
But even if You don’t
My hope is You alone

It is well with my soul
It is well, it is well with my soul

Chocolate

Reflections on Shuffle-Play (the thing where she writes a reflection based on a song from that morning’s run)

Sweet days.

This life has had a few seasons that were so sweet. Days when I couldn’t wait to wake up in the morning because there was so much joy seeping into the hours.

The first summers I worked at camp: Late 80’s glory. Those lakeshore days flew by in a haze of suntan lotion, The Cure, laughter, and green-apple scented shampoo.

Springtime in West Africa: it was 1994 and I was young enough to have everything in front of me, but old enough to be sure I was going nowhere. Surrounded by the coolest people I knew, everything I owned in my backpack, life was a gorgeous, tortured cornucopia.

The summer of 2001: I was in New York at my first church and planning my wedding to my favorite person. Every meal was the best meal, every song that came on the radio was my favorite song, every day was sunny. Good fortune seemed to smile every single place I looked.

The spring of 2014: I was living in Texas and preparing to go on a reality show in Norway. After living through the deaths of my parents, and the deaths of my husband’s parents, and severely questioning my call to ministry, I won a free adventure in Norway. I told my church I was going (and thank God they gave me their blessing because there was no way I was going to miss out on this adventure) and spent my free hours studying Norwegian, running, drinking tequila with lime on ice in the Texas sun, and learning every skill I could think of to help me in the reality show competitions (how to shoot a gun, how to swim, archery,  – none of these skills proved to be helpful, however, at least for the show). While I didn’t get very far in the show, preparing to go was an absolute blast. It was such a joy to think about something so lighthearted after years of dealing with death and sadness.

The beautiful thing? There were those sweet days and so, so, so, so many more. And I am grateful.

Chocolate

by the 1975

Hey now call it a split ’cause you know that you will
Oh you bite your friends like chocolate
You say, we’ll go where nobody knows, with guns hidden under our petticoat
No we’re never gunna’ quit it, no we’re never gunna’ quit it no
Now we run run away from the boys in the blue, and my car smells like chocolate
Hey now think about what to do, think about what to say, think about how to think
Pause it play, pause it play, pause it
Oh we’ll go where nobody knows, with guns hidden under our petticoats
No we’re never gunna’ quit it, no we’re never gunna’ quit it no
Yeah we’re dressed in black from head to toe, we’ve got guns hidden under our petticoats
No we’re never gunna’ quit it. no we’re never gunna’ quit it no
Now you’re never gunna’ quit it, now you’re never gunna’ quit it, now you’re never gunna’ quit it
If you don’t start smoking it, that’s what she said
She said we’re dressed in black, from head to toe, with guns hidden under our petticoats
No we’re never gunna’ quit it, no we’re never gunna’ quit it no
Hey now we’re building up speed as we’re approaching the hill
Oh my hair smells like chocolate
Hey now you say you’re gunna’ quit it but you’re never gunna’ quit it
Gotta get it, gotta get it, gotta get it, gotta get it, go!
And play it cool
Oh and you said we’ll go where nobody knows, with guns hidden under our petticoats
No we’re never gunna’ quit it, no we’re never gunna’ quit it no
Yeah we’re dressed in black, from head to toe, we’ve got guns hidden under our petticoats
We’re never gunna’ quit it, no we’re never gunna’ quit it no
Well I think we better go, seriously better go
Said the feds are here you know
Seriously better go, oh oh, well I think we better go
Said the feds are here you know
Said Rebecca better know
Seriously better go
We’ll go where nobody knows, with guns hidden under our petticoats
No we’re never gunna’ quit it, no we’re never gunna’ quit it no
Yeah we’re dressed in black, head to toe, guns hidden under our petticoats
No we’re never gunna’ quit it. no we’re never gunna’ quit it no
No no no
Well I think we better go, seriously better go
Said the feds are here you know
Seriously better go, oh oh, well I think we better go
Said the feds are here you know
Said Rebecca better know
Seriously better go

 

 

Finish Line

Reflections on Shuffle-Play (the thing where I write a reflection each day on a song from that morning’s run)

My husband’s parents died in 2007 – his father, Butch, in January and his mother, Dottie, in August.  Our eldest, Owen, was just one year old then and our baby, Jesse, was born in June of that year.  The last time we saw Dottie was at Jesse’s baptism on August 5th.

It was a warm afternoon when Chad got a frantic call from his sister that their mother had died suddenly.  In the days to come it was surmised that her death had occurred from an accidental overdose.  There had been some leftover medication in the house from when Butch was on hospice care and apparently Dottie had told a neighbor she wasn’t feeling well and was going to take something to help her sleep. A tiny bit of liquid morphine and she just never woke up again.  One tiny sip of an incorrect dosage and she left behind her children and a whole bunch of grandchildren who had planned on a lot more time with her.  She never had to suffer as she slipped peacefully into death, but she left behind a family to suffer – a family who still just can’t quite believe she’s gone.  Forever wondering why she was so careless, or if there was something we missed?  Was she sadder than we thought after Butch’s death?  Was there a part of her that wanted to sleep eternally or was it truly just a horrible error?  Then, finally realizing that every question will always remain unanswered.

We went down to New Mexico to help clean out their house and Chad and his brothers and sister hobbled around the house in shock making piles and going through papers while I tried to chase Owen and hush Jesse.  I led the funeral service and wanted to do such a good job but I didn’t.  I didn’t know the perfect words to say for a loss like that.  I know better what to say for strangers than for my own family.  I have found this to be true again and again over the years.  I am unable to blur the lines in my roles.  The same thing happened when Butch was dying and Dottie called to say he wanted to have communion one last time and could I bring it to him?  We were coming down to see them in a few days.  I was happy if I could do something for him but I felt sick at the thought of how in the world to do this?  How could I knit together words to pray a prayer out loud for my beloved’s father in his last hours?  I felt like I just barely knew how to be a daughter-in-law – I had no idea how to be pastor to him, too.  Butch was family, real family to me – I loved him.  That was the problem.  I knew I would weep sharing the sacrament with him.  I knew I couldn’t put on my ‘pastor face’ for him and be any sort of calm and comforting presence because I would just keep thinking about how sad I was for me and for Chad and for our boys and just everyone that we wouldn’t have him around anymore.  It would be too real, too close, too deep, too much.  I called the hospice chaplain at the facility where he was hospitalized and asked her to bring him the sacrament.  I told Dottie that I was worried we wouldn’t get there in time.  She said she understood.

My pattern of wanting someone else to be the pastor when it comes to my family continued.  Right before my mother had her final heart surgery just weeks before her death, I spotted a hospital chaplain in the hallway and dragged him into her room in ICU.  There was a good chance mom might not survive the surgery. I demanded he pray for her right then.  I bowed my head while hot tears flowed down my face and onto her bedspread.

All the prayers I have said by hundreds of hospital beds but I could not pray aloud for her.  I knew the silent prayers I kept lobbing toward heaven were incessant, but to speak those words aloud, if she were to hear them – I would have been undone.  Not that I was very composed as it was – but I knew I was only capable of being her daughter, not her pastor.

When my children were baptized I put the water on their heads but had pastor friends do the rest of the service.  I only said the words, “I baptize you in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit” and it was all I could do to squeak those words out.

I can’t even think about what their confirmation day will be like.

Their weddings?  Oh dear God.

It’s not that I think pastors shouldn’t cry.  Ask anyone in any of the congregations I have served and they’ll tell you I am a crier.  I’ve cried with widows on the anniversaries of their husbands’ deaths.  Tears usually slip out at every baptism and it isn’t strange for my voice to be choked when I’m blessing the confirmation students at the altar rail along with their parents on confirmation day.  In fourteen years as a pastor I have openly wept three times during sermons – during my final sermon at both my first two calls and when I preached at the nursing home on what would have been my mother’s 80th birthday.

I’m not ashamed of any of those tears.  I’m grateful to have work that moves me deeply.  But even so – there are parts of my life when I cannot be the pastor because I need a pastor.  There are times I need someone else to be saying the prayers and administering the sacraments.  There are times I just need to hear someone else speaking the holy and precious words of God to my grief, my joy, my life.

I remember in seminary when I worked at a hospital in the Twin Cities and a priest who worked there as well was recalling his mother’s funeral.  He had done the entire thing himself.  Back then I thought to myself how brave and wonderful it was to be able to do such a thing.  How great that he could do that final thing for his mother.  However, now I see a different perspective.  I feel sad for him that he couldn’t just be a son grieving his mother.  I feel angry for him that probably every significant moment in his family’s life together he couldn’t just be there to enjoy it but rather he probably was expected to say the prayer, do the wedding, speak at the wake, give the last rites.

It’s a blessing to be with people during the most significant moments of their lives – it’s one of the best parts about being a pastor – but we can’t do that for ourselves or for the people we love the most.  We cheat ourselves out of feeling everything that must be felt and being fully the many roles God gives us to fulfill.  I’m so thankful at my parents’ funerals I simply sat down and listened to the preacher speak.  And when my children get married, I want to just be the mother of the groom, slipping the pastor a nice honorarium.

Finish Line

by Train

I thought I knew it all
I’ve been through the highs, said all my goodbyes
Learned to run before I learned to crawl
It’s not worth fighting for if one of us is sure
And one of us is dying, trying to find loves cure

I have waited all my life to paint these cities red
Thoughts I’ve always had here are stuck inside my head
It’s not worth waiting for if one of us wants more
And one of us is dying, trying to find love’s door

When we learn how to fly
We forget to how walk
When we learn how to sing
We don’t wanna hear each other talk

Here we are at the finish line, ah
Here we are at the finish line

And you, you really thought you knew
Everything to do
With holding onto me and holding on
This time is making me slip right through your hands
And now you don’t understand
Trying to find love all yourself

When we learn how to fly,
We forget to how walk
When we learn how to sing
We don’t wanna hear each other talk
When we know what we want
We forget what we need
When you find who you are
You forget about me

Here we are at the finish line, ah
Here we are at the finish line, ah
Here we are at the finish line

Ah, ah, ah

Nothin’ on Me

Reflections on Shuffle-Play (the thing where I write a reflection inspired by a song from that morning’s run)

I do not have high standards when it comes to movies. Basically, I’m content if there is a happy ending. However, I was watching a made-for-TV movie the other day that was so unremarkable I simply couldn’t finish it. There was one scene that has stuck with me, though: the sister of the main character was discontent with many things in her life and tended to blame the people around her for her dissatisfaction. She repeatedly grew angry at her husband for the big brown patches on their lawn, “Why can’t you ever water the grass?!” She kept yelling at him for not taking care of the lawn until one day she decided to go out and water the grass herself. She smiled as she did it – a smile of great satisfaction – as she realized that she didn’t have to wait for anyone to make her life better. She could do it herself. Her whole demeanor changed as she stood there with the hose in her hand, watching the water cascade over the grass. The viewer could see her embracing her power right then and there – and sure enough, before I changed the channel she had already begun to make other changes in her life. All it took was a shift in her perspective. Instead of putting her energy into blaming others or her circumstances, she put her energy into making it better.

I’ve thought of that so often in the last few days. How can I water my own grass, concern myself with the solution rather than the problem? That shift in perspective might seem slight but in reality, it makes all the difference in the world. I can see everything as a problem I have, or I can see everything as a solution I am finding – and I am never alone as I look for that solution. I think this may be one of the greatest lessons life teaches us. A long time ago, I used to feel like so many problems were insurmountable. If I didn’t know what to do immediately in any given situation, all was lost, and I was surely a failure. Despair set in easily back then. It took me a very long time to realize that it was okay to not know the answers, and it was great to ask for help.

Are you upset with a situation and finding yourself blaming others or outside forces? Is there something you could do today to address the problem directly? Can you water your own grass?

Nothin’ on Me

by Shawn Colvin

Well I don’t tell jokes
And I don’t take notes
You been sayin’
There ain’t much hope
You got nothin’ on me
I got friends uptown
And they don’t talk down
They be keepin’ me safe and sound
We got somethin’ to be
So in case you hadn’t noticed
I’m alright
Not like it was before
Things used to be so hopeless
But not tonight
Tonight I’m walkin’ out that door
I’m not gonna cry
When wavin’ goodbye
And I know this time
You got nothin’ on me
Well it ain’t that tough
Just more of the usual stuff
One heartache is more than enough
There ain’t nothing to see
Nothing
I got friends uptown
And they still come ’round
They be keepin’ me safe and sound
We got somethin’ to be
So don’t you try to save me
With your advice
Or turn me into something else
Cause I’m not crazy
And you’re not nice
Baby if you do
Keep it to yourself
I’m not gonna cry
And I’m wavin’ goodbye
And I know this time
You got nothin’ on me.
(No nothin’ on me)

 

Sunday Morning

Reflections on Shuffle-Play (the thing where I write a reflection based on a song from that morning’s run)

I didn’t lead worship today. I get a few Sundays off each year and while it is nice to have a Sunday now and then to not extend the mental energy toward preparing a sermon and not be “on” for a Sunday morning, it is equally nice to have the opportunity to worship somewhere else. This morning, I chose to worship at a larger church in a town nearby. I chose this particular church because I like the pastors and because I knew I would be relatively anonymous there. It isn’t a church that typically does a lot with my own so I can slip and out without being noticed by many of the parishioners.

It is important to worship other places because it helps wake up my mind to what other churches are doing. When I spend each Sunday in my own church and focusing on the way we do things, I forget that there is a whole other world outside full of different ways of thinking and doing. I usually come away from other worship services feeling both inspired to try some new things, yet also finding that there are also things I prefer about my own church. Today was no different.

I liked the bright and airy sanctuary, the touches of tradition along with the touches of modern. They recently went through a renovation, so while the outside looks very traditional and a bit cold, the inside is warm and welcoming. The pastors are great – whip-smart, with easy smiles and demeanor. They are both younger than me and have young children, so while I was there I found myself remembering the unique challenges that come with trying to balance all the demands of being a full-time pastor along with all the demands of being a full-time parent to little ones who need you so much. It’s beautiful and hard and precious.

Before we had our boys, I remember thinking parenthood would be a lot like regular life, just with these extra little people around. It was my job to feed them and clothe them and raise them, but it was their job to fit into my world, not me fit into their world. I didn’t realize, because there is no way you can realize until you go through it, how much children alter the world as you once knew it. Nothing was the same anymore. Going out to eat was no longer the same leisurely experience because it became a race to see if we could even get a few bites of our food eaten before one child or the other was in a meltdown. Going to movies was different because for a very long time the kiddos only want to see cartoons or superhero movies – gone were the romantic comedies, dramas, and suspense films. Having a conversation with one’s spouse was immensely different – rather than being able to talk to each other in peace and quiet at any hour of the day, instead we had to cram important conversations into the crevices of our days. There was hardly any room for each other because the children took up so much space and energy. During the worship service I found myself thinking about how quickly the years have passed and so much of early parenthood just felt like trying to keep my head above water. Did we do the best we could? Did we make the most of the time yet savor it as well? What will our boys remember from their childhood?

It was a welcome surprise that part of the worship today was a service for healing. Anyone could come up if they wanted and receive prayers for healing. I wondered if anyone would go forward as sometimes Lutherans can be terribly tentative about things like this – but most everyone in the congregation went forward to receive prayers and anointing. Before they began, one of the pastors said simply that all of us need healing in one way or another. He talked about how it is a flaw in our culture, and particularly in Christianity, that we feel like we need to put on a perfect front. It’s okay to need healing, it’s okay to admit that we hurt and would like someone to pray for us. He spoke those few simple words and a whole church full of people came forward one by one to receive prayers. It was healing for me, too. I’ve done healing services before but usually as something apart from Sunday morning. I’ve never before seen it done like it was done at this church today – and I loved it. I look forward to stealing that idea as soon as possible.

My youngest came with me to church this morning. He sang along loudly with the worship band. Then, we went out for lunch at a Chinese restaurant. On the way home, we saw the fish houses and ice skaters out on the lake. We sang along to classic rock and talked about making cookies this afternoon. It is an unusual Sunday, but a good one. A chance to see the world, worship, and my own life from a new perspective. Thanks be to God.

Sunday Morning

By No Doubt

Sappy pathetic little me
That was the girl I used to be
You had me on my knees

I’d trade you places any day
I’d never thought you could be that way
But you looked like me on Sunday

You came in with the breeze
On Sunday morning
You sure have changed since yesterday
Without any warning
I thought I knew you
I thought I knew you
I thought I knew you well, so well

You’re trying my shoes on for a change
They look so good but fit so strange
Out of fashion, so I can complain

You came in with the breeze
On Sunday morning
You sure have changed since yesterday
Without any warning
I thought I knew you
I thought I knew you
I thought I knew you well, so well

I know who I am, but who are you?
You’re not looking like you used to
You’re on the other side of the mirror
So nothing’s looking quite as clear
Thank you for turning on the lights
Thank you, now you’re the parasite
I didn’t think you had it in you
And now you’re looking like I used to!

You came in with the breeze
On Sunday morning
You sure have changed since yesterday
Without any warning
And you want me badly
Because you cannot have me
I thought I knew you
But I’ve got a new view
I thought I knew you well, oh well

On Sunday morning
And I don’t want it
Sunday morning
I thought I knew you
Sunday morning
Oh you want me badly
Can have it
Sunday morning
Sunday morning
Sunday morning

 

Tripping Billies

Reflections on Shuffle Play (an exercise in which I write a reflection based on that morning’s run)

I wish I kept count of all the times that people talked about calories, points, diet, or weight over the course of our Thanksgiving festivities.

It was the first Thanksgiving of my life I was feeling comfortable in my skin and content. I had neither starved beforehand to prepare for the onslaught of calories nor was I intending to exercise more than usual the next day. I wasn’t afraid of the challenge of all the enticing food, just happy to be sharing a good meal with people I loved. For the first time, I could really focus on all I am thankful for: my children, my husband, the beautiful weather, living near enough to family to see them on the holidays, good health, the list goes on and on.

And because my vision was clearer this year and I wasn’t so distracted by my war with my weight and the scale, I was able to observe what a toll the weight-loss war takes on people. I observed how easily people talk about diet and weight, how often people called themselves “bad” for this indulgence or that. I observed it with compassion, because this is a journey all of us are on and it wasn’t long ago at all I was joining in on the poisonous self-talk. Furthermore, the ghosts of my life-long battle with food still loom large – even though I was feeling comfortable with the food in the room and my ability to trust how much my body wanted to eat, I still scanned each picture that was taken yesterday to see if I looked, “fat”. I may not be able to help doing that as long as I live. All of these habits are hard to break.

I think dieting is fine if it really makes a person feel better, however, I found after enough time and energy devoted to it that the benefits did not outnumber the costs. There were still small joys in it: being told I looked good, fitting into smaller sizes, etc., but I found it made my world feel very small. I began to resent the mental energy it took, the time it took. It made me feel boring.

When I was stuck in diet mode, there was always this sense of “just you wait and see.” If I felt bad about myself or incomplete, I thought, “just wait until they all see me after this next diet. I’ll look so good and everything will be so great.” When I stripped that away, I had to be okay with offering myself just as I am to the world. I had to be ready to be happy now, to be content now, to exist in present tense rather than future tense.

I found I like present tense.

However, there are still so many triggers that exist and I have to be careful when they appear. When I hear someone talk about so and so who just lost forty pounds, when I overhear someone mention a new diet they are starting, when I see a “before and after” picture, when I am having a day when I am not feeling so beautiful – any of these things can trigger the feelings that it’s time to change myself. I’m obviously not good enough as I am, time to shift, morph, become, alter.

But instead of giving any energy to those triggering feelings, these days I remind myself to counter all those feelings with the thought of, “maybe you are just fine the way you are.” It’s a small but oh-so significant shift in thought. When I focus all my attention on who I am rather than who I might become if I just change this or that, then I realize that the time is NOW to do all the things I love and care about. Do the writing NOW. Share the writing NOW. Take your kids out for a fun day NOW. Go out with a friend for coffee NOW. Live your life NOW.

So today, I had pecan pie for breakfast because it is delicious. Then, I ran for 30 minutes because it makes me feel amazing and accomplished as I start my day. These days I only use my fitbit as a timer for my runs, otherwise it sits on the little shelf of my treadmill. This Black Friday there is no trace of regret for the cheesecake I ate yesterday, no plan for starting over with a new healthy eating plan on Monday, there’s just me, happy. Now that is something to be thankful for.

 

Tripping Billies

By The Dave Matthews Band

we were above
you standing underneath us
we were not yet lovers
dragons were smoked
bumblebees were stinging us
I was soon to be crazy

eat, drink and be merry
for tomorrow we die
’cause we’re tripping Billies

we’re wearing nothing
nothing but out shadows
shadows falling down on the beach sand
remembering once,
out on the beaches we wore
pineapple grass bracelets

so why would you care
to get out of this place
you and me and all our friends
such a happy human race
’cause we’re tripping Billies

we are all sitting
legs crossed round a fire
my yellow flame she dances
tequila drinking oh our
minds will wonder
to wondrous places

so why would you care
to get out of this place
you and me and all our friends
such a happy human race

eat, drink and be merry
for tomorrow we die